Category Archives: Background

Sad News…

I saw that someone died in a house fire last night – and then realised that I knew him.

Denis McKenna – I worked with him in my first real IT job, at the Blood Transfusion Service based in Law Hospital. Denis was one of the developers there – and had a wicked sense of humour.

He suffered fromĀ  a degenerative condition which meant that he used a wheelchair and only worked three days a week (much to the annoyance of the management!). It looks very much like he was trapped in the house, and couldn’t get out.

in coding we often have to make little variables for general purposes – looping through some records, or just keeping a count of something. We used to code in Clipper S87 – a language designed for working with dbase databases, and there were a huge number of reserved words (that you can’t use for variable names, because the system handles them in a special way), which included “count”.

We usually abbreviated it to “cnt” – not Denis. He always abbreviated it to “cunt” – again, much to the annoyance of the management.

he was a real character – and the world is a slightly less interesting place today because he’s no longer here.

Derren Brown, mind reader…

Saw Derren Brown at the royal concert hall in Glasgow last night.

absolutely stunning. He’s incredible, memory and cold reading skills that border on the uncanny (not to mention spectacular showmanship).

I like him a lot – and like him even more for the simple fact that he doesn’t claim to be a psychic. In fact, he goes out of his way to state that he does not have (or indeed, even believe in) any psychic ability.

The best bit about Derren Brown is that, like me, he was once a Born gain christian before becoming an atheist. He has this to say about Richard Dawkin’s “The God Delusion”:

“I hope that those secure and intelligent enough to see the value of questioning their beliefs will be big and strong enough to read this book. It is a heroic and life-changing work”

Amen to that, brother.

Blinking Red Text on a Yellow background – yay!

People with artistic or musical abilities amaze me. My day job is rather more cerebral, and I spend a lot of time troubleshooting problems, coming up with solutions – logical, black box, step by step and above all rigorous “brain work”. Despite this (or possibly because of this, I’m not sure) I’m a fairly hands on person in my social life. I like working with wood, I do my own plumbing, tiling and so on. I mix my own concrete.

I have managed to produce a few things in my life that I am quite proud of – little bits of furniture, an absolutely kick-ass garden shed, those sorts of things.

That being said, I consider myself to be a well intentioned amateur rather than properly skilled – I can draw out a pretty reasonable isometric view of something I want to build, or a fairly accurate schematic, but when it comes to expressive art – sketching, doodling, drawing people, places, things – I probably have not advanced much since primary school days.

The same goes with music – despite many, many piano lessons I remained capable of producing a reasonably accurate but utterly lifeless and mechanical rendition of any music I tried. I just don’t have it in me.

People who can just make music or draw things realistically are just awe-inspiring – an incredible ability.

They are also, as it happens, one of the hardest bits of a campaign to get right – you need good graphics people, people with that natural eye for a good design or layout, the sort of folks that would just never use blinking text on a website.

There are a few new projects being mulled over at the moment, over the Scottish Atheist Council and it’s going to be important to get these things right – that’s why they are looking for some talented people (atheists, naturally) to start putting things together.

If you are (or know of) a Graphics Designer, artist or otherwise “arty” person with an interest in atheist/secular issues, please, get in touch.